Suarez dives in at the deep end to keep a smile on his face
SOCCER:“SCOUSE WIT” is how Brendan Rodgers described the way Luis Suarez flung himself to the floor in front of David Moyes, the man who had accused him of diving. We knew many things about the Uruguayan, from his ability to exploit a yard of space to his propensity to fall to earth like an extra shot in a bad Western. However, nobody had suggested he had a sense of humour.
“I thought it was great,” said the Everton manager. “I actually quite liked that and it is the sort of thing I’d have done if I’d scored. He is going to have to dive in front of a lot of managers now, isn’t he?”
Suarez had a certain amount of courage to test Moyes’s sense of humour. When his glacial blue eyes darken he can rival Sir Alex Ferguson as a man not to cross. His daughter tweeted: “I am surprised dad didn’t butt him.”
However, when it came to Suarez raking his studs down the back of Sylvain Distin’s legs, Moyes was not prepared to be so forgiving. “I have to say he is a very lucky man to have stayed on the pitch,” he said. “They have shown me it again and it is from behind, over the top, right down the back of his leg.”
And yet, nobody in either dugout denied that Suarez’s stoppage-time goal was legitimate, although Moyes pointed out the free-kick that had led to it should not have been awarded. No Liverpool manager since the war, bar Kenny Dalglish, had won their first derby at Goodison and victory here would have cemented Rodgers’ still uncertain position on the other side of Stanley Park.
“I am so disappointed because it was such an easy decision,” Rodgers said. “It was a free-kick from deep, the ball was in the air a long time and you could clearly see Suarez was onside. So instead of being a brilliant win for us, we are left feeling frustrated.”
And yet, however well he performs, Suarez might as well adopt the moustache that so many Liverpool players sported during the club’s golden age. He will for ever be a villain, especially in a month in which Diego Maradona was voted a bigger sporting cheat than Lance Armstrong in a poll by MSN. “Pick-pocketing the English”, as Maradona described the “Hand of God” goal in the Azteca, still counts for more than seven years of sustained duplicity.
There were two obvious dives and they were from men who grew up in Wembley and Bury rather than Montevideo. One from Raheem Sterling led to the free-kick from which Suarez poached Liverpool’s second. The other was by Phil Neville, probably the one player here who most equates to the description of “honest, English pro”. It was blatant and the Everton captain was booked for it.
“It was an absolutely stupid thing to have done,” Neville admitted afterwards. “I don’t find myself at that end of the pitch very often and I thought Daniel Agger was going to come in behind me. But I got a good kick up the backside at half-time and rightly so. I put myself under pressure with the yellow card and it meant I couldn’t really make the tackles in the second half.”
Everton may have had to come from two goals down to force a draw but there was still disappointment in Neville’s voice. It is hard to recall a derby, even at Goodison, that Everton were more expected to win. They had form, home advantage and experience in their favour and, until he was forced off with an ankle injury, they possessed the afternoon’s outstanding player in Kevin Mirallas. This was to have been a day to confirm the balance of power on Merseyside had shifted.
“We know where we want to be, we want to be in the top four,” Neville said. “We drew at QPR, we drew at Wigan the week before and we have drawn here. Draws are not good enough, we need to win games. That’s what Chelsea and Manchester United do.”
And yet, when Steven Gerrard was awarded the free-kick deep into stoppage time, there were shouts of “no” all around Goodison. They could sense what was coming, the old inferiority complex had not quite lifted. When the linesman’s flag, however late and however wrongly, was lifted, relief filled the stands.